On, Tuesday, 15 August 2023, the Parliament Square in Central London witnessed yet another peaceful
demonstration by the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association (ACAA) to draw attention to the human
rights abuses taking place inside Afghanistan, a country facing massive restrictions on women and girls
under the oppressive Taliban regime.
15 August 2021 marked the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan. It’s been two years since then, and
the fates of many women and girls back home remains sealed in the uncertainty of the future. With new
restrictions faced on them this year, it is deeply disturbing to see that girls and women have not only
lost the opportunity to enter schools and universities, but also to access public spaces and interact with
their community. This infiltration by the Taliban in women’s public life is an attempt to dismantle the
female power – to prevent them from forming unions and paralyzing their capacity to protest.
However, as Dr. Nooralhaq Nasimi, the Founder and Director of ACAA states, “crippling the female
power inside Afghanistan won’t break the people because the power not only lies inside but also
outside, which is why to achieve any positive results inside Afghanistan we need to have diaspora
movements and representation of the diaspora community in the Parliaments”.
This Tuesday, the strength of the diaspora community was brought into action opposite the London
Parliament when protestors, including Afghan girls and women themselves, took to the streets and
carried banners bearing slogans such as ‘No to Taliban & For Human Rights Afghanistan Needs You & and
& Support Opposition in Exile.
Kokogul, Dr. Nasimi’s mother was also present during the protest. Sitting in the afternoon sun in a
walker, she held a placard that read, ‘UK aid – do you know how women suffer in Afghanistan?’ Not
only did she raise the issue of lack of education for girls and women and early marriage as an
ongoing problem in Afghanistan, but she also urged the government to send aid to her country.
Recounting how she lost three of her seven children to malnutrition, Kokogul stressed the urgency of
sending financial assistance to Afghanistan especially during the upcoming winters to prevent loss of
The fall of Kabul in August 2021 ended a 20-year international military and civilian intervention to
stabilise Afghanistan and rebuild its institutions, economy, and society. Despite providing tens of billions
of US dollars in civilian aid, the international community failed to enable Afghanistan to build a viable
state which commanded sufficient public support to resist the Taliban insurgency. The country is now in
a state of near collapse with an estimated 24.4 million people in need of humanitarian support and the
international community is divided on how best to respond to the crisis. The complexity of humanitarian
aid also stems from the international community having concerns over the monitoring and
accountability of aid spending under the Taliban regime.
To reflect on some of these issues of aid delivery, ACAA organised a conference in the evening titled
‘Lessons Learnt – Learning from Aid Delivery in Afghanistan’, with over 150 people in attendance,
including British parliamentarians, the Afghan Diaspora, journalists, and academics.
The Rt. Hon Tobias Ellwood MP, Chair of the Defence Committee, was the keynote speaker for the
evening. Whilst Mr Ellwood shared his experiences of travel to Afghanistan, he said, “politics is the
art of the possible” and was thus keen to know the views of the Diaspora community in the audience
about what they think is happening in their country. The panel discussions addressed humanitarian aid
to Afghanistan, specifically the challenges and how to ensure transparency, reasons why past
peacekeeping missions have failed, and how instability affects economic security and humanitarian
Other distinguished speakers included Professor Michael Cox, Pete Spink, Dr. Nooralhaq Nasimi, and
Professor Michael Cox, Founding Director of LSE Ideas and Emeritus Professor of International Relations
at the LSE shed light on how the international community is losing interest in Afghanistan. Arguing that
“Afghanistan comes on the radar only when it becomes a place of international significance”, Professor
Cox emphasized for more dialogue and discussion so that Afghanistan doesn’t become a forgotten land.
While there is a clear need for dialogue and for collecting first-hand narratives from people living under
the Taliban regime, language appears to be a huge barrier. As Dr. Nooralhaq Nasimi rightly mentioned,
“It’s sad that the people of Afghanistan cannot speak any foreign languages, making it hard for them to
communicate their problems to the international community". Now, more than ever, western education
is being denied to the women and girls of Afghanistan. Even as refugees to countries like the UK, they
face significant barriers, with language barriers being one of them.
Pete Spink, Armed Forces Veteran and the joint Founder and Director of Engagement and Development
for Space 2 Talk Training CIC, shared with the audience the work his organisation does to assist asylum
seekers and refugees in the UK, especially through wellness and wellbeing programmes. War trauma,
especially among those newly-arrived, often contributes to a range of psychological conditions and
disorders that becomes quite disabling to these survivors and their families.
Our last speaker for the evening, Jonathan Banks, an award-winning British photographer, shared his
visual journey of documenting these survivors of torture from around the world who fled their home
countries seeking safety, recovery, and political asylum. His ‘Portraits of Resilience’ photography project
allows survivors to share their stories in an exploratory and creative fashion—with the ethos that
survivors are the strongest and most effective voice in the campaign to abolish torture. Exhibiting his
photographs at the conference, he showed how the photography series posed questions about place,
home, and humanity amidst the growing global refugee crisis.
After the enlightening discussions by both the panels, the evening was concluded with traditional live
music by Ustad Yusuf Mahmoud and an opportunity for networking. The conference was moderated by
Shabnam Nasimi, Former Policy Advisor to Minister for Afghan Resettlement Victoria Atkins MP and
Minister for Refugees Richard Harrington, and it turned out to be a great success.